The following video beautifully exemplifies the meaning and celebration of Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It is a 2013 CGI Student Academy Award Gold Medal Winner Short Film HD: “Dia De Los Muertos” from Whoo Kazoo.!!
When I moved to Mexico, I became enamoured with the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. Despite, its rather gloomy sounding name, Dia de los Muertos is a joyful celebration.! Family members and friends gather with food and drink to remember, honor, and pray for their deceased loved ones. Basically, they invite the deceased back into their lives for an annual visit.
The holiday is celebrated October 31, November 1st, and November 2nd and is tied to the Christian traditions of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day. However, it also has origins dating back to the Aztecs and their worship of the goddess Mictacacihuatl or the Lady of the Dead. Modern Catrina dolls symbolize the Lady of the Dead. Special foods beloved by the deceased, sugar skulls, and marigolds are placed on makeshift altars in homes and cemetaries to entice the spirits of the dead to return.! Hanal Pixán, or Food for the Souls, is also celebrated by the Yucatec Mayans at the same time.!!
Typically, October 31st, honors infants and children, and is called Dia de los Inocentes or the Day of Innocents. While, November 1st, honors adults and is referred to as Dia de los Muertos. I believe the reason this holiday struck a chord with me is because I have lost my mother and my brother. When my brother passed away 18 years ago, it was such a traumatic experience for my family.
In the beginning, we used to buy him presents for Christmas and his birthday and leave them at the cemetary. We would also bring him a slice of birthday cake. It’s not like we baked a whole cake for him. My brothers were/are twins, so we were making one anyway. It was easy just to bring a piece to his gravesite too.
But I remember, upon seeing this grief and mourning activity from my family, my brother-in-law told us, “You and your family are very tangible mourners.” That comment always struck a chord with me because in my mind I could not understand another way to mourn. My brother had always been in my life, how could I now just stop celebrating who he was and what he meant to me.? I could not. Nor could I when my mother passed away six years later.
So, when I discovered that in Mexico there is actually a holiday that tangibly mourns, remembers, and honors their deceased – I felt like I had come home. I was actually living in a country that understood my grief and was not afraid of it. And not only that they understood, but they too called out to their loved ones. Even though I am no longer in Mexico, I will remember my family tomorrow. Tomorrow also happens to be my father’s 76th birthday. So I will also be celebrating my dad tomorrow.! But I will remember to leave an extra piece of cake for my brother and my mom at the table 🙂
Enjoy the video.!! And Happy Halloween too.!!